En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Live Oak Suckers

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Monday - March 21, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Live Oak Suckers
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Hello, my neighbor cleared away their St. Augustine grass for mulch and plantings. Under a huge, beautiful Live Oak tree they placed a wide bed of medium gravel, almost out to the drip line. It looked wonderful for a few weeks, until the little oak suckers started reaching for the sky. They are now almost as dense as a lawn, and my neighbors don't know quite what to do about it. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Aha! Your neighbor has just created the perfect environment for those little oak suckers to emerge.  This is a favorite question asked by Central Texas homeowners.  I like the answer that the A&M Horticulture website had about this. 

  I quote in part:  “LEARN TO LOVE THEM because the more you cut the more they multiply. Some homeowners keep them trimmed at a certain height and interplant ground cover -- the ground cover conceals the oak sprout since the foliage is similar. We DO NOT recommend a herbicide application to sprouts since the sprouts are connected directly to the Mother tree and could cause damage. Roundup herbicide will do little more than defoliate the sprouts and could damage the tree to which they are attached. Learn to co-exist; they can become one of the most drought-tolerant ground covers available.”

Multiple previous answers by Mr Smarty Plants tend to pretty much agree with this; I will reference those answers in the summary that follows. 

 They lean towards cutting the suckers regularly, and even recommend sharpshooters and garden loppers as the tools of choice.   Be careful though, as this exposes the tree to Oak Wilt, so trimming these between February and June is highly discouraged.

  From my own experience, I can echo the advice given above and add to it a little bit.  We have two lovely Live Oaks in our front yard.  We opened the area under them when we converted the yard to a native garden.  Those suckers immediately started coming up and we had a large area where they were pretty thick.   I would mow and weed-whack them for normal control, then once or twice a year I’d dig as much as possible and cut some of the larger roots with loppers or shears.   Later I graduated to using a hedge trimmer under the soil [REPEAT:  Do not cut the Oak from February to June]

  Lately, we have converted from this to a covered situation similar to that recommended in this comment.  We laid down multiple layers of newspaper, covered by heavy cardboard, covered by 4-6” of mulch.  Using cardboard and paper allows some water to seep through, unlike the pond cover suggestion.  You should cover everything up to maybe 6” from the tree trunk.  We are now about 6 months into this and none have made it up yet.  I’m very hopeful, keep your fingers crossed for us.  Still, as they said in Jurassic Park:  “Life will find a way”.

 

More Trees Questions

Effects of patio under large tree
July 17, 2008 - I would like to put in a patio under a fairly large tree. I understand a tree needs some open ground around it for air and water. Can I use flagstone leaving 6-10 inches of space between the stones?...
view the full question and answer

Shade trees not toxic to dogs in Kempner TX
August 21, 2013 - Dear Mr Smarty Plants, we are looking for shade trees to plant around our home in Kempner, Tx. I saw another family that asked a similar question but we have dogs and holly or oak trees are toxic (my...
view the full question and answer

Oaks at Wildflower Center from Wimberley TX
September 05, 2012 - I know you have numerous Quercus fusiformis examples at the ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. My question is, do you also have Quercus virginiana growing there? Also, is Oak Wilt a disease that ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of pines on I35 between Dallas and Denton
May 03, 2011 - I frequently drive I-35E from Dallas up to Denton and I've often wondered if the pine trees that I see near the road and in the surrounding areas, especially between Lewisville and Denton, have been ...
view the full question and answer

Native trees for revegetation project
October 05, 2007 - We live in a MUD just outside of Round Rock Texas. There is a developer building apartments behind about 20 houses. Last year, we got the developer to agree to leave 20' of native vegetation in the e...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center